Saturday, February 11, 2006

Brokeback Mountain

After weeks of planning, I finally managed to catch a show of Brokeback Mountain last night. The verdict: Pretty good, but overhyped.

(For those of you who prefer sci-fi, and even for those of you who don't, check out this free alternative: Brokeback to the Future.)

Ang Lee has always had a knack for unpredictability when it comes to his films' subjects. He has glided effortlessly from Jane Austen (Sense & Sensibility) to Chinese martial arts (Crouching Tiger) to super-hero movies (Hulk), all of them distinguished by strong characterization, smart screenplays and a sense of being ''weightier'' than they had any right to be. Brokeback Mountain continues the tradition, an almost-traditional romance with one twist -- the lovers happen to be a pair of cowboys, neither of whom is much into speaking. (Nor, for that matter, is anyone else in the movie -- with one memorable exception.)

There is much about the film to appreciate -- the delicate, unhurried manner in which it reveals the depth of its characters, little moments of drama full of keen observation, and a screenplay that trusts its audience to read between the lines. But for all its virtues, the film doesn't rise to the realms of greatness. For one, it is painfully slow. Deliberate artistic choice or not, the film felt interminably long -- with little of note happening most of the time -- despite a storyline that spanned nearly twenty years and a runtime of right around two hours. I could also not help but think that the gender of its protagonists had too important a role to play in making the film feel better than it really is. I wonder how it'd have been received had it been about a straight couple instead.

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